Our popular Meet the client series uncovers the inside story on the companies we support with legal services. In this edition, we sat down with Andreas Adamides, CEO of Helm, a membership community and network for like-minded founders, facilitating opportunities for them to share experiences and practical advice to achieve their business goals. Andreas spoke to us about Helm’s journey so far leading up to its 20th anniversary earlier this month, how challenges such as COVID-19 turned into opportunities and how he benefits personally from the advice of Helm’s members.
What is Helm and why was it started?
Helm – or The Supper Club as it was called when originally founded in 2003 – is a membership community for founders and CEOs of high-growth UK businesses, who meet at various events. Our founder, Duncan Cheatle, started Helm at a time when there was no comparable place for founders to have open, honest, and relatable conversations with their peers without being sold to.
There are two core parts to Helm’s DNA - a ‘no sales’ principle, meaning whenever our members meet, there is strictly no selling or pitching during our events, and a ‘give and get’ ethos, whereby our members actively support each other by openly sharing their experiences. Discretion is guaranteed to our members as we operate under Chatham House Rule at our events and our forums are completely confidential.
In our early years, we created opportunities for members to network and connect over dinner (hence the name The Supper Club) to share their pressing needs, first-hand experiences, and any practical advice they had to share. Much has changed over the last 20 years. We now offer our network an array of different events ranging from intimate forums to ‘many heads’ dinners, sector meets, and a range of online and activity-based events. We also operate like a matching service for fundraising and investment opportunities. We decided to rebrand as Helm last year as we wanted our name to be representative of our current offering and our members, who are all at the ‘helm’ in their position of leadership within their businesses.
Could you share some of Helm’s key successes so far?
It’s great to see how Helm has flourished since I joined last year – we are now a certified B Corp – joining eight percent of our members who are B Corps themselves. Our success is really shown through our members and the growth they’ve experienced in their businesses, with one member recently achieving a £200m exit for instance. He reached out to me personally and said the success of his exit stemmed from what he had learned at a Helm roundtable he attended five years ago, and he offered to host a future event himself to share his experience with our members. Our success truly comes from our members paying it forward and it’s great that Helm can help facilitate that for them and see them through the entirety of their founder journey.
What is your role at Helm?
I joined Helm in July 2022 as CEO to run the Club. When I was approached, I already knew some of the members and I could see just how much Helm supported them – so it was something I really believed in from the start. I’ve always been a strong advocate for networking in-person and having conversations with like-minded people – and that’s exactly what Helm represents.
One of the joys of working at Helm is that even as the CEO, I’m still learning, which is the power of being around those who are either in the same position as you or further along in their journey. I wish I had known about the Club when I was just getting started, but even now as CEO – I feel deeply embedded within the community we have built, and I benefit as if I’m an active member myself.
How has the membership changed over the years?
In the early days, we had very few exited founders that joined the
Club, it was mostly early-stage founders who were seeking support with the fundamentals of business. Over the last 20 years – our membership base has transformed and because of this, Helm is now exclusively for founders and CEOs of scale-up businesses – members must have businesses with over £1million in turnover and a workforce of 10 or more.
Currently, at least 13 percent of our members have exited one or more businesses – but many still benefit from the Club as they’re often elected to become a part of our forum as a chairperson. This gives them the chance to give back to the Club by sharing their first-hand experiences.
Has Helm faced any challenges? What has been the impact?
Although I joined Helm after the pandemic, my colleagues tell me that COVID-19 had a significant impact on how the Club operated. All of our meetings became exclusively online, which was definitely a challenge for a business that is centred around in-person connection. Over Zoom, everything slows down and you can lose the small (but very mighty) aspects of conversations such as hand gestures and expressions.
On the other hand, in a time of such uncertainty, our members needed Helm more than ever and throughout the pandemic, we were able to provide our members with vital resources and advice. Since re-starting our in-person events, the demand has grown tremendously and we’re now hosting 50 percent more events and many more types of events than we were 12 months ago.
How has Harper James helped Helm?
As a serial founder, I’ve always been budget-conscious when seeking legal advice. So, being able to work with a full-service law firm where we have direct access to senior and commercially minded lawyers at a price point that suits our budget really serves our needs perfectly!
It’s reassuring to know that the team is there when I need them, with prompt responses, and without the worry about how much it will cost if I need to reach out for some quick advice. It gives me a lot of confidence, and it’s a great experience. It has also proven to be very valuable when our Club’s members reach out with urgent legal needs, and we have never hesitated to recommend Harper James to them as we know their ethos of supporting founders in their business journey aligns with ours.
What can other founders (or people in similar roles) learn from your journey so far?
Peer-to-peer support is greatly underrated. Most founders operate instinctively or are inspired by what they read in the press where their peers are often mythologised. The downside of that is that they can often underestimate the challenges of setting up and running a successful business – until they come across them in their own journey. There’s great power in conversation, so don’t be afraid to network with others who are or have been in your shoes.
What does the future of Helm look like?
We’re currently at a very exciting point in our journey. Our membership base is growing rapidly and we’re seeing substantially more engagement as our members are attending more of our events than ever before. We are continuously looking to encourage diversity among our membership to ensure everyone can benefit from great peer-to-peer advice. We’re also exploring opportunities to host events across the UK to cater to our members who live outside of London, where most of our events are held. We’re excited for the future of Helm and our objective is to take what is our well-tested and proven model and the very strong brand equity we have built and expand it internationally too.